The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), “the nation’s largest association of Muslim organizations,” joined by one of its increasingly natural allies, the left-wing blog ThinkProgress, is pressing John McCain to stop using the term “radical Islamic extremism” to describe terrorist and terror-sympathizing groups that are undeniably radical and extremist and justify that radical extremism with appeals to a radical and extreme reading of Islam.
Or, at least, a reading that I assume is radical and extreme; one would like to believe that groups like ISNA think so. Naturally, the United States wants and needs to convince the Muslim world that this is the case, and that the terrorists aren’t right when they invoke Islam to justify violence against non-Muslims and even, very regularly, against fellow Muslims. But it’s hard to make that argument if you don’t even acknowledge the fact that the enemy is making such use of an ideology that purports to be grounded in Islamic theology. How would you have gone about combatting the KKK without describing them as a racist group, or international Communism without arguing against Communism? ISNA’s leader apparently wants to shut down precisely that sort of dialogue:
Mr. Fareed, who is ISNA’s secretary-general, said such usages are wrong.
“My own take on this is that we tried and failed to stylize this particular onslaught against the United States as one that has religious connotations and regional connotations,” said Mr. Fareed, a former associate professor of Islamic studies at Wayne State University.
“I think this is just criminality, fair and square. We should just call them criminals. You want to call them terrorist criminals, fine,” he said. “But adding the word ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’ certainly doesn’t help our cause as Americans. It’s counterproductive. It paints an entire community of believers, 1.2 billion in total, in a very negative way. And certainly that’s not something that we want to do.”
The self-proclaimed sophisticates at ThinkProgress echo this line of reasoning:
The term “Islamic extremism” is …sloppy, denigrating Islam as a violent religion while conflating the diverse, multifaceted threats coming from abroad.
The answer here is obvious: we should stop referring to groups like Al Qaeda, Hezbollah (literally, “the party of Allah”) and Hamas as Islamic when they themselves stop doing so. But as long as they cite chapter and verse of the Qu’ran, it is simply the truth to say that they are who they claim to be. And it’s heartening to hear McCain spokesman Steve Schmidt stick to his guns:
“Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda represent a perverted strain of Islam at odds with the great many peaceful Muslims who practice their great faith peacefully,” Mr. Schmidt said. “But the reality is, the hateful ideology which underpins bin Ladenism is properly described as radical Islamic extremism. Senator McCain refers to it that way because that is what it is.”
Meanwhile, as the Washington Times notes, McCain’s Democratic opponents are not so hot to wield the truth:
Mr. McCain often uses the term “Islamic” to describe terrorist enemies. The two remaining Democrats in the presidential field, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, generally shun such word usage.
Contrast the fire directed at McCain just for speaking the truth with Sen. Obama’s, er, admirers among – you guessed it – radical Islamist extremists. First up, a senior official of Hamas:
We don’t mind – actually we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance.
Then we have the Iranians:
Iranians are following the American presidential race more avidly than ever before. That’s partly because they’re eager for the exit of President Bush, who branded Iran part of an “Axis of Evil” and implicitly raised the possibility of a military strike against the country over its alleged nuclear weapons program. But the Iranians’ interest is also driven by a sense among many Iranians that the candidacy of Barack Obama offers real hope for repairing the U.S.-Iranian relationship. Commenting on the Iranian preference for a Democrat in the White House, Sergei Barseghian, a columnist for the reformist Etemad Meli newspaper noted that in Farsi, the words Oo ba ma would translate as “He’s with us.” …
…it’s Obama’s declared willingness to engage in “aggressive personal diplomacy” with the Iranian leadership that has generated the most interest among senior officials in Tehran, since this would mark a sea-change in Washington’s approach. “Obama is a man of engagement, a man of negotiations,” one Iranian official told TIME. …
(More here on Obama’s collection of admirers who are not such big fans of the United States of America). Even weighing the usual caveats here about the difficulty of getting information out of the Iranian regime, as well as the layer of blather TIME pastes over these quotes, it should hardly surprise anyone that Obama is more popular with the enemy when he declines to follow McCain’s lead in calling them by their true name.